Stevens, J., dissenting
made no finding with respect to the sufficiency or credibility of the prosecutor's explanation at step two. The question, then, is whether the reviewing court should (1) go on to decide the second step of the Batson inquiry, (2) reverse and remand to the District Court for further proceedings, or (3) grant the writ conditioned on a proper step-two and (if necessary) step-three hearing in the state trial court. This Court's opinion today implicitly ratifies the Court of Appeals' decision to evaluate on its own whether the prosecutor had satisfied step two. I think that is the correct resolution of this procedural question, but it deserves more consideration than the Court has provided.
In many cases, a state trial court or a federal district court will be in a better position to evaluate the facts surrounding peremptory strikes than a federal appeals court. But I would favor a rule giving the appeals court discretion, based on the sufficiency of the record, to evaluate a prosecutor's explanation of his strikes. In this case, I think review is justified because the prosecutor volunteered reasons for the challenges. The Court of Appeals reasonably assumed that these were the same reasons the prosecutor would have given had the trial court required him to respond to the prima facie case. The Court of Appeals, in its discretion, could thus evaluate the explanations for their sufficiency. This presents a pure legal question, and nothing is gained by remand if the appeals court can resolve that question on the facts before it.
Assuming the Court of Appeals did not err in reaching step two, a new problem arises when that court (or, as in today's case, this Court) conducts the step-two inquiry and decides that the prosecutor's explanation was sufficient. Who may evaluate whether the prosecutor's explanation was pretextual under step three of Batson? Again, I think the question whether the Court of Appeals decides, or whether it refers the question to a trial court, should depend on the state of the record before the Court of Appeals. WhateverPage: Index Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Next
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